Category Archives: Oman

The Mubarak’s Secret London Home, Vaults & All

In the Knightsbridge area of London, a huge Georgian town house has become a symbol of the conundrums facing baffled Egyptian investigators in their hunt for what they believe are the Mubarak family’s hidden millions.

It was here, at 28 Wilton Place, where Gamal Mubarak, the former president’s youngest son, resided from at least the early 1990s until 2010, according to The National newspaper who covered this story a couple of weeks ago.  

And according to the UK property website Zoopla, the house is worth a cool £6.75 million ($10.4 million).  

Of course, at first glance this is an example of the extravagant life of the Mubarak family. But something more sinister is at work.

According to The National, London property records for 28 Wilton Place show Omar Zawawi, an Omani businessman, owns the property. If you’ve never heard of him, it’s time to Google.

He is owner of Omar Zawawi Establishment, a Muscat-based conglomerate. He is also special adviser for external liaison to Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman and an all-round powerful man. 

While the National’s story politely claims “there is no suggestion that any of his dealings with Gamal Mubarak were anything but above-board and legitimate”, Rebel Economy is not so sure. 

In fact, the story catalogues what appears to be long-standing ties between the Mubarak family and Dr Zawawi: 

According to news accounts, Dr Zawawi’s contacts with the Mubarak family date to at least 1980, when Mena, the Egyptian state news agency, reported a meeting between Dr Zawawi and then vice president Mubarak.

On February 6, 2011, five days before Mubarak was forced from office, Dr Zawawi, now in his 80s, travelled to Cairo to deliver a letter to the president from Sultan Qaboos, according to news reports.

And in June 2011, Gamal and his brother Alaa sent a letter to Dr Zawawi, a copy of which was published in the Washington Times newspaper on June 24, 2011.

In the letter, Mubarak’s sons insisted that no member of his family could receive a fair trial in Egypt and asked Dr Zawawi to “use your esteemed global standing to shed light on what is going on”.

It’s a telling indication of the way the Mubaraks saw themselves – as similar to Gulf dynasties and monarchies. What’s even more telling is that real Gulf dynasties and monarchies allowed the Mubarak family to think this was true to give the Gulf better control over the Arab world’s most populous country.

Rebel Economy spoke with an Egyptian banker familiar with the relationship between the Omani businessman and the Mubaraks. He said Mr Zawawi took Gamal under his wing in the late 1980s, giving him use of his house and even buying him a luxury car in London. 

A final, tantalising detail in this mystery is the four vaults in the basement of the London house. Rebel Economy got a copy of the blue prints available here and below, and the design statement here
What was in those vaults, the Egyptian investigators may be wondering? Brooms or gold? 


Morning Round-Up – Qatar and Egypt, Suez Canal, Inflation

Qatar injects $2 billion into Egypt’s Central Bank after the Gulf state’s Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, visited Cairo.  Qatar has now become the second state, after Saudi Arabia, to lend to Egypt without an International Monetary Fund loan in place.  This loan didn’t come as a shock, and was in fact over due, since Qatar pledged about $10 billion last year to support Egypt’s economy with investments.

Qatar’s control over Egypt has been a source of great speculation with rumours circulating that claim the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to rent the Suez Canal to Qatar for ninety-nine years thus undermining Egypt’s sovereignty.

It seems for now the Suez Canal is in safe hands, however.  The waterway, a vital source of foreign currency, earned $433.1 million in July, up from $415.9 million a month earlier, but 3.6% down from a year earlier when revenues stood at $449.2 million.

Egypt’s natural gas exports rose by 8.9% in the first five months of this year, hitting US$964.4 million.  However domestic consumption of natural gas also increased 6.89% in the same period, while electricity consumption went up by 1.3%.  Egypt’s heightened demand for natural gas has forced the country to up imports of a different type of gas used for domestic consumption.

Egypt urban inflation eases to 6.4% in July, from 7.3% in June as commodities prices fall.

Dubai’s Shuaa Capital swings to Q2 loss as the investment firm continued its restructuring efforts and booked one-off costs.

Oman’s Al Izz Bank to float in Septembersetting in motion an initial public offering first announced in a press release a few weeks ago.


The Curse of the IPO

Facebook was probably the most-anticipated tech initial public offering since Google went public in 2004.

But it all went sour when shares quickly went downhill and the stock fell well below the initial IPO price.

It’s not just big brand US IPOs that have fallen flat.

The scene hasn’t been much rosier in the Middle East, where chronically illiquid markets have staved off many public offerings.   Axiom Telecom, the Dubai-based mobile phone retailer,  was poised to be the first UAE company to sell shares to the public in more than 18 months in December 2010.   Weeks later, the company pulled out citing lukewarm investor appetite.

Last year the market got a further blow as uprisings rippled across the region creating market volatility and political turmoil.

It meant total funds raised from the Middle East and Africa stood at $929.9m in 2011, a 68.5% decline on 2010, research from Ernst & Young shows.  Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia led the way generating almost half of that amount, with $417.8 million raised.    

Ernst & Young research

Now as the political sphere calms some Arab countries are trying the market again.

Firms in the region raised a total of $1.29 billion through five IPOs in the second quarter of 2012, almost three-and-a-half times more than the $374.77 million raised in the second quarter of 2011, according to the Ernst & Young research.

They were by IPO size:

1) Saudi Arabia’s Al Tayyar Travel Group with its $364.65 million listing on the Tadawul

2) Saudi Airlines Catering’s $354.09 million listing on the Tadawul

3) Najran Cement Company’s $226.58 million IPO, also listed on the Saudi stock exchange

4) UAE-based NMC Healthcare which listed on the London Stock Exchange with a $187 million IPO

5) Oman’s Bank Nizwa that raised $158.49 million and is listed on the Muscat Stock Market.  This IPO was a result of the regulatory changes in Oman’s banking sector which has recently approved Islamic banking.

So with the IPO climate looking brighter, a word of warning from JPMorgan’s Klaus H. Hessberger, co-head of capital markets in EMEA

“Corporate governance and political  stability remain key focus points [in the Middle East].  A successful IPO needs to be a sizable  company with a strong story that can  benchmark itself against European peers. 

Most will also take a listing in the US, London or an Asian market to add some quality.” 

With that in mind, it seems anti-climactic that the next planned IPO in the region is  Al Izz Islamic Bank in Oman which will float 40% of its 100 million rial capital.

The only exciting feature is that Aabar Investments, the notoriously media-shy state-owned Abu Dhabi fund with stakes in Glencore, Daimler and UniCredit, is Al Izz’s cornerstone investor.

What that says about Aabar’s venture into Islamic finance is a different story, but surely with a giant like Aabar behind it, Al Izz can’t go wrong?